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RIP: Herb Trimpe

Sad news from the world of comics. Herb Trimpe was an important part of comic history … having been the penciler for the entire run of Marvel’s “Godzilla” comic, nearly all the issues of “Shogun Warriors,” and a 6-year run on “The Incredible Hulk” (including co-creating characters like Doc Samson and Wolverine).

In the ’80s I wasn’t a huge fan of Trimpe’s . . . his work felt too tied to the Silver Age for my John Byrne/George Perez adoring tastes. But over the years I’ve come to very much appreciate his ability to tell a story cleanly, clearly, and dramatically whether that story is about cowboys, super heroes, modern American heroes, or giant Japanese monsters and robots. Trimpe was a master of the storytelling craft in a way that many of today’s more flashy, stylish artists would do well to learn from.

I hadn’t seen any of his recent work and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure whether or not he was still with us . . . but this news hits me in my comic-loving heart. Rest in peace, Mr. Trimpe, and thank you for the years of entertainment.


MASH Memories

Over the past few weeks I’ve been watching a lot of MASH episodes. I started with the pilot and have been going through them in order … finished with Season 2 last night.

I watched A LOT of MASH when I was young. It was my mom’s favorite show for years, and I was practically addicted to the syndicated re-runs during my high school and college years (when it was possible to watch 2.5 hours every weeknight), so I wasn’t at all surprised that even after all these years the episodes all seemed comfortable and familiar.

But just now that I saw an episode that I don’t recall ever having seen before. How strange, after all this time to sit through 24 minutes of MASH and not know any of the jokes or dialog (although sit-com writing being as formulaic as it is, figuring out the plot and major “twists” came without even really thinking about it).

I wonder if it’s just that I don’t remember having seen this before, or if I actually missed it for all these years … or that this particular episode didn’t run in syndication. The title is “Rainbow Bridge” … and it does feature a bit of straight up jingoistic China-bashing, which was pretty uncharacteristic for the show, so it could have been in low rotation in (or even have been pulled from) syndication.

Honestly, I was a little surprised that it took me until Season 3 to find a show that I didn’t have a strong memory of. I mean, I can’t have clear remembrances of all 24 episodes from every one of the 11 seasons the show aired. I mean that’d be crazy!


The Sounds of Hardware

I’ve been using a Mac Mini as my desktop computer for the past nearly-six years, and one of the things that amazed me most when I set it up was the fact that it was absolutely silent.

Last night and again this morning, as I woke it from it’s “sleep” state, my little mini actually made some “processing” noises … just quiet shushes of an older hard drive running, I think, but it kinda freaked me out.

Even though there is no sign of any other trouble (yet), I’m thinking it might be time for me to look into getting my next desktop (almost certainly another Mac Mini) now before something catastrophic happens and I have to rush through the process in a panic. Of course, with taxes, relatively slow freelance, and having just paid rent, it’s hardly an ideal time to have to go shell out $750 (which is what the cost will be once I get system tweaked to the way I want it).

Or I could just press my luck and hope that all will remain well for a while longer.


Thinking About Doodling

The most successful “webcomic” I’ve ever done (from the perspective of longevity and frequency of updates) was Doodle-A-Day. Really, it was more of a sketch diary than a webcomic . . . but I’m not even sure how much details like that matter to ordinary folks. The point is that I managed to keep that site up and running, with a steady stream of content, for longer than any other web-based project (including, by some measures, this blog).

Every day from October 29, 2006 until April 16, 2010, I posted at least one image from my sketch pads. Sometimes they were just random figures, or even just shapes. Other times they were character studies or warm-up drawings of characters from projects I was working on. Yet other times they were concepts for single (or multiple) panel comics … a good number of which were eventually rendered in full as 10’x10′ Toons.

All of this was made possible by  the messed up way my brain works.

You see, I learn better by listening rather than looking. So when I have new or important information to process, I actually do a better job of processing and, even more important, remembering it if I focus my eyes on something else and concentrate on listening to what’s going on around me. It’s been true all of my life—much to the consternation of teachers throughout my primary and secondary education (not to mention classmates who wanted to borrow my notes).

When I was working at TSR, Wizards of the Coast, and Upper Deck Entertainment, I had A LOT of meetings to attend, all of them at least nominally important. Generally, it was important that I be able to keep the information at my fingertips since my teams were, generally, the ones at the hubs of projects—often being the conduit through which work flowed. We were often the only ones who were CAPABLE of knowing when other teams’ work could impact (or even derail) work from other teams.

All of those meetings meant that I generated A LOT of doodles. And when the meetings were done, I’d often be asked to pass around my notebook so that everyone could see what bits of fancy I’d scribbled out. And when I got back to my desk, my co-workers often wanted to see, too. Eventually, I decided to just start scanning the sketches and posting them online . . . and THAT’S how Doodle-A-Day was born.

In the end, I stopped updating Doodle-A-Day because, after more than a thousand uninterrupted days, I was running out of material. You see, when I wasn’t working at a job that focused on project management and required lots of meetings, my doodle output dropped off precipitously. For a while, I would schedule “doodle time” for myself—whole mornings or afternoons when my “job” was to sit in a cafe and scribble out enough doodles to keep the site going for another week or two. Eventually, that practice began interfering with my work on actual freelance projects, so I decided that if I couldn’t produce the doodles “organically” then it was time to just let the project go.

That was nearly five years ago, and I’ve been thinking a lot about Doodle-A-Day and all the ancillary concepts and artwork it gave me . . . and I really miss it. I’m considering the possibility of reviving Doodle-A-Day . . . maybe under a different title . . . maybe as a Tumblr rather than a blog or a webcomic . . . maybe containing a mixture of new doodles and “re-runs” (I’m certainly NOT producing enough doodles currently to keep up with daily updates) . . . maybe even featuring a combination of sketches and finished art.

I don’t know. We’ll see.

Anyway, although I gave up the old URL for Doodle-A-Day several years ago, you can still see the whole 1,000+ image run on Livejournal, if you’re curious.

D&D: Standing on the Shoulders of Past Success

The Boston Globe recently ran a cool article about D&D’s resurgence with the launch of 5E.

My one nitpick, though, is this quote “the game, which experienced strong growth throughout the 1970s and ’80s, began a slump in the 2000s.” Which is the narrative that the current team would LIKE to push … but the truth of the matter is that as good as sales are now (particularly compared to the launch, not to mention the final days, of 4E), they are nowhere NEAR as good as they were in 2000-2002, the first two years of D&D 3E. The sales slump began in 2003 with the release of 3.5.

It’s POSSIBLE that from a measure of revenue generated that 5E has “outsold” 3E at launch … but even THAT seems unlikely, or only BARELY true. And although I don’t have the numbers myself, the WAY that WotC talks about the success tells me that it’s absolutely true that 5E is not even approaching the unit sales that D&D had back in 2000.

I’m NOT trying to start an “edition war” … I like 5E A LOT and will probably play it as my fantasy game of choice for games I run during the next few years (at least). But it bugs me when WotC denies or ignores past success in order to make its current situation look like “the best it’s ever been.”

Still and all, I’m wildly HAPPY that 5E is out and is a hit! And I’m proud of the work that my friends did in designing and developing what could be the version of D&D that ends up having the longest legs.


Boosting the Signal

So, yesterday I talked a little bit about the fact that the biggest help that anyone can provide to my “Stickers by Stan!” Kicstarter is to spread the word and share the link. And a whole lot of you did. So before I write anything else . . .


I continue to be flabbergasted by the quick and enthusiastic backing that you all have given me, and will strive to prove myself worthy of so much support and positive energy.

As I push through this final week of the fund drive, I’ve been giving some thought as to where to spend the most of my energy. I mean, it’s fine for me to just blast out announcements and such for as far as my digital lungs will send them . . . but it’s BETTER for me to focus that energy talking directly to groups of folks that have a predisposition to being INTERESTED in stickers, cartoony clip-art, and such.

Likewise, if you know anyone who is interested in these things, it’s ESPECIALLY helpful for me if you make sure that THEY know about my little project. (Or if you know a group that you think _I_ should be approaching, send that info on to me and I’ll get right on it!)

Anyway, here are the groups I’ve identified for special attention.

It sounds obvious, but although kids are the ones who love stickers, it’s PARENTS who make the buying decisions. So it’s important for me to get the word out to folks who are looking for inexpensive gifts, unique to get for their kids the holidays. These stickers (and coloring book) won’t be available in stores or other online venues (not in time for this gift giving season, anyway). My Kickstarter is a way that they can get something special, that other kids won’t have. And this is even more so if the parents are gamers who are looking for gamer-related presents to make their kids feel like they’re part of the hobby.

Really, this is a sub-set of the “Parents” category . . . but it’s a VERY IMPORTANT sub-set. For those who don’t know, “mommy bloggers” is a non-pejorative term for parents (mostly moms) who have blogs or dedicated websites that focus on presenting material that will be of interest to other parents. Basically, these blogs are hubs for parents who are looking for interesting things—particularly around the holidays, things that will make for good gifts that are different from the usual wares to be found in every Toys’R’Us and Amazon Wish List. Basically, getting a good mention on one of these sites is the equivalent of making thousands of direct contacts with individual parents.

Stickers aren’t just for kids. I know that because _I_ still love stickers and so do many of my friends. But most of us just get them for novelty’s sake, rarely making actual USE out of them. But my friends who are into scrapbooking and other cozy crafting activities actually DO use them . . . and they’re always on the lookout for unusual stickers, particularly ones that synch up with their other hobbies (like fantasy fiction and gaming).

If you have strong connections into any of these groups, and you don’t mind putting in a good word for me and my project, I’d be even more grateful than before. Or, since you’ve got better things to do with your time than go around shilling for my projects, if you could just make an introduction for me . . . I’d STILL be super grateful.

There’s less than a week left in this Kickstarter, so I’ve got to make every connection count!

I Don’t Want Your Money

It might seem like a strange thing for someone running a Kickstarter to say, but if you’re here at my blog reading this it’s absolutely TRUE.

Look, I created the “Stickers by Stan!” Kickstarter because I believe in the project—I believe that there’s an audience for it, and I hope that it FINDS that audience. But I know that some people feel pressure to contribute to projects that their friends launch, so let me say this as plainly as I can . . . I DIDN’T create this Kickstarter as a way to strong arm my friends into tossing a few bucks my way. So unless the sticker/clip art/coloring book rewards actually appeal to you, PLEASE don’t feel any pressure to become a backer. The truth is, if you want to help me in this endeavor, there’s a BETTER way to do it than pledging money.

The most valuable thing when running a Kickstarter, more valuable than ANY individual contribution, is getting folks to share the link to the campaign page as far and wide as possible.

I do a pretty good job of making my voice, my projects, and my goals known to the family, friends, fans, and interested onlookers who follow me in various sites and media. But success in an endeavor like this requires getting attention and support from people BEYOND the usual range of my voice . . . putting “Stickers by Stan!” in front of people who have no idea who I am. And THAT’S something that YOU, my friends, can do.

So if you want to help with my Kickstarter, the very BEST way you can do that is to share the link through Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, or any other venue you’ve got. Anyone who takes the time and makes the effort to do that will have earned my gratitude in abundance. And if you want to be of particular help, wait a few days and share the link AGAIN.

If you really DO want stickers (for yourselves, your kids, or to give as presents), then I will happily take your pledges, too. But seriously . . . I’m NOT looking for your money.

It’s Kickstarter Time!

The Thanksgiving holiday last week was, as some may remember, my favorite holiday of the year. And I certainly have ample things to be thankful for—family, friends, health, joy in my work, success in my chosen field, just to name a handful. But this year I had something else to be especially thankful for . . . and I’ve been remiss in not talking about it here. At this very moment I’m thankful for the success that my current Kickstarter project is enjoying!

What’s that? You didn’t know I was even HAVING a Kickstarter at the moment?

Yeah, that’s my fault. It started last Monday, and I haven’t spent as much time promoting it as I should (a cardinal sin when it comes to Kickstarter). But rather than bemoan the week I’ve missed out on, I’m going to focus on the week ahead . . . because this is the FINAL WEEK of the campaign!

My project is called “Stickers by Stan!” and, not surprisingly, it’s all about taking some of my cartoon art and producing it in the form of stickers. Here’s the pitch video:

I’ve been exceedingly lucky in that, despite my flying in the face of every best practice, the project has ALREADY reached its funding goal (in point of fact, it funded in less than three hours) AND has hit the first two stretch goals. That doesn’t happen without a lot of support from a lot of wonderful folks . . . and I’m honored to know that’s the case for me.

So here I am with just ONE WEEK left in the drive, and I plan to make the most of it. If this sort of naked promotion bugs you, I can only say two things: 1) Sorry, and 2) It’ll only be for one week. Because after that, the drive is done. (Now I’m sounding like an NPR station!)

Tomorrow I’ll talk a bit about how YOU can help . . . and here’s a spoiler, I’m NOT going to be begging for you to give me money!

Stan! on Sale — Consultations

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, due to most of my planned work for November and December having been mothballed (details can be found here), I’ve decided to have try to make up at least some of the income shortfall by having a sale on my work. Over the last couple of days I announced special pricing on my drawing and writing. Today I do the same for my consulting services.

One of the benefits of having been successful in the worlds of writing, game design, publishing, and illustration is having gained a broad range of experience . . . and being able to share that with friends and colleagues.

Most often, I do this as a courtesy (that’s what you DO for friends and colleagues), but sometimes I’m approached by folks I don’t know, or who are new to the industry. Even then, in a casual setting, I’m more than happy to share my thoughts casually . . . but when someone wants detailed assessments, advice, or commentary, THAT’S when I hang out my “professional consultant” shingle.

I can’t give you a guaranteed way to succeed in your projects. But I can use my experience as a writer, game designer, creative director, art director, and production manager give you a very well rounded professional opinion of your project, concept, or design. Or I can simply act as a sounding board and help you brainstorm way to take your concept and turn it into an actionable project. Plus, I’ve been a central part of three successful Kickstarter campaigns, so I can give you my opinions in that realm, too.

This service isn’t for everyone. In the end, all I’m offering is to listen to (or review) your concepts and give you my opinions on how to improve them, or tell you what sorts of things I would do (or have done) in similar situations. BUT for some people that can be an invaluable aid.

I can’t say how much this service is worth to you . . . but I CAN tell you how much my time is worth to me. And, indeed, as part of the Stan! Sale, I’m lowering that cost significantly.

* 1 Hour phone/tele-conference—(reg. $100)—SALE PRICE $50
* Manuscript Review— varies by assignment details

As with so much in business, there is generally room for negotiation, so don’t be afraid to come to me with a proposal. And please post a comment or contact me (through email, Facebook, or Twitter) if you have any questions.

Also, feel free to spread this info around … indeed, PLEASE DO! The more people know about this sale, the more likely it is to generate work.

Stan! on Sale — Writing

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, due to most of my planned work for November and December having been mothballed (details can be found here), I’ve decided to have try to make up at least some of the income shortfall by having a sale on my work. Yesterday I announced special pricing on my drawing services. Today I do the same for my writing services.

Below I’m going to spell out what my normal prices are for different types of writing assignments, and what my sale prices are. The catch is that in order to get the sale price, you have to pay up front.

Since I’m hoping to book a fair amount of work this way, you have to understand that it may not be possible for me to do the work immediately . . . at the very least, I’ll have to set up a queue, PLUS I do have a few other commitments (already scheduled full-price freelance work which will have to take priority). So if you have a specific deadline that must be met, let me know ahead of time, and I’ll let you know whether or not I can commit to meeting it. I DO plan to work through the assignments as quickly as I can because, if nothing else, I’m starting to book NEW work to do in 2015.

Also, the amount of time it will take me to do any RPG related work will vary depending on how familiar I am with the game system in question. So, really, it’s a good idea to send me a query note BEFORE figuring this as a done deal. That having been said, I play and am comfortable designing for many different game systems . . . so chances are good that we can work something out.

I know that money up front is asking a lot in the trust department. And I fully accept that such a deal is not everyone’s cup of tea, so if you prefer you can book using the regular method—setting up a firm schedule for completion of your project, and paying upon completion (or split partial payments, depending on the size of the assignment) . . . but that would have to be done at the full-price rates.

But if getting a bargain price is the most important thing for you, then here’s what I’ve got to offer.

* Guest Blog (~1,000 words)—(reg. $150)—SALE PRICE $75
* Short Subject (~3,000 words)—(reg. $400)—SALE PRICE $200
* Feature Article (~5,000 words)—(reg. $600)—SALE PRICE $300

* Single Encounter (~2,000 words)—(reg. $500)—SALE PRICE $300
* Side Trek (~5,000 words)—(reg. $800)—SALE PRICE $400
* Short Adventure (~10,000 words)—(reg. $1,250)—SALE PRICE $800
* NPC Creation (including full-figure color illustration)—(reg. $200)—SALE PRICE $100

* Micro-Fiction (up to 2,000 words)—(reg. $200)—SALE PRICE $100
* Short Story (up to 10,000 words)—(reg. $1,000)—SALE PRICE $700
* Novelette (up to 25,000 words)—(reg. $3,000)—SALE PRICE $2,000
* Longer Fiction—varies by assignment details

As with so much in business, there is generally room for negotiation, so don’t be afraid to come to me with a proposal. And please post a comment or contact me (through email, Facebook, or Twitter) if you have any questions.

Also, feel free to spread this info around … indeed, PLEASE DO! The more people know about this sale, the more likely it is to generate work.